Captain Ahab--though but a child, and nestling safely at home now--a
child of your old age too--Yes, yes, you relent; I see it--run, run,
men, now, and stand by to square in the yards."
"Avast," cried Ahab--"touch not a rope-yarn"; then in a voice that
prolongingly moulded every word--"Captain Gardiner, I will not do it.
Even now I lose time. Good-bye, good-bye. God bless ye, man, and may I
forgive myself, but I must go. Mr. Starbuck, look at the binnacle watch,
and in three minutes from this present instant warn off all strangers:
then brace forward again, and let the ship sail as before."
Hurriedly turning, with averted face, he descended into his cabin,
leaving the strange captain transfixed at this unconditional and utter
rejection of his so earnest suit. But starting from his enchantment,
Gardiner silently hurried to the side; more fell than stepped into his
boat, and returned to his ship.
Soon the two ships diverged their wakes; and long as the strange vessel
was in view, she was seen to yaw hither and thither at every dark spot,
however small, on the sea. This way and that her yards were swung round;
starboard and larboard, she continued to tack; now she beat against a
head sea; and again it pushed her before it; while all the while, her
masts and yards were thickly clustered with men, as three tall cherry
trees, when the boys are cherrying among the boughs.
But by her still halting course and winding, woeful way, you plainly saw
that this ship that so wept with spray, still remained without comfort.
She was Rachel, weeping for her children, because they were not.
CHAPTER 129. The Cabin.
(AHAB MOVING TO GO ON DECK; PIP CATCHES HIM BY THE HAND TO FOLLOW.)
"Lad, lad, I tell thee thou must not follow Ahab now. The hour is coming
when Ahab would not scare thee from him, yet would not have thee by him.
There is that in thee, poor lad, which I feel too curing to my malady.
Like cures like; and for this hunt, my malady becomes my most desired
health. Do thou abide below here, where they shall serve thee, as if
thou wert the captain. Aye, lad, thou shalt sit here in my own screwed
chair; another screw to it, thou must be."
"No, no, no! ye have not a whole body, sir; do ye but use poor me for
your one lost leg; only tread upon me, sir; I ask no more, so I remain a
part of ye."
"Oh! spite of million villains, this makes me a bigot in the fadeless
fidelity of man!--and a black! and crazy!--but methinks like-cures-like
applies to him too; he grows so sane again."
"They tell me, sir, that Stubb did once desert poor little Pip, whose
drowned bones now show white, for all the blackness of his living skin.
But I will never desert ye, sir, as Stubb did him. Sir, I must go with
"If thou speakest thus to me much more, Ahab's purpose keels up in him.
I tell thee no; it cannot be."
"Oh good master, master, master!
"Weep so, and I will murder thee! have a care, for Ahab too is mad.
Listen, and thou wilt often hear my ivory foot upon the deck, and still
know that I am there. And now I quit thee. Thy hand!--Met! True art
thou, lad, as the circumference to its centre. So: God for ever bless
thee; and if it come to that,--God for ever save thee, let what will
(AHAB GOES; PIP STEPS ONE STEP FORWARD.)
"Here he this instant stood; I stand in his air,--but I'm alone. Now
were even poor Pip here I could endure it, but he's missing. Pip! Pip!
Ding, dong, ding! Who's seen Pip? He must be up here; let's try the
door. What? neither lock, nor bolt, nor bar; and yet there's no opening
it. It must be the spell; he told me to stay here: Aye, and told me this
screwed chair was mine. Here, then, I'll seat me, against the transom,
in the ship's full middle, all her keel and her three masts before me.
Here, our old sailors say, in their black seventy-fours great
admirals sometimes sit at table, and lord it over rows of captains and
lieutenants. Ha! what's this? epaulets! epaulets! the epaulets all come
crowding! Pass round the decanters; glad to see ye; fill up, monsieurs!
What an odd feeling, now, when a black boy's host to white men with gold
lace upon their coats!--Monsieurs, have ye seen one Pip?--a little
negro lad, five feet high, hang-dog look, and cowardly! Jumped from a
whale-boat once;--seen him? No! Well then, fill up again, captains, and
let's drink shame upon all cowards! I name no names. Shame upon them!
Put one foot upon the table. Shame upon all cowards.--Hist! above there,
I hear ivory--Oh, master! master! I am indeed down-hearted when you walk
over me. But here I'll stay, though this stern strikes rocks; and they
bulge through; and oysters come to join me."
CHAPTER 130. The Hat.
And now that at the proper time and place, after so long and wide a
preliminary cruise, Ahab,--all other whaling waters swept--seemed to
have chased his foe into an ocean-fold, to slay him the more securely
there; now, that he found himself hard by the very latitude and
longitude where his tormenting wound had been inflicted; now that a
vessel had been spoken which on the very day preceding had actually
encountered Moby Dick;--and now that all his successive meetings with
various ships contrastingly concurred to show the demoniac indifference
with which the white whale tore his hunters, whether sinning or sinned
against; now it was that there lurked a something in the old man's eyes,
which it was hardly sufferable for feeble souls to see. As the unsetting
polar star, which through the livelong, arctic, six months' night
sustains its piercing, steady, central gaze; so Ahab's purpose now
fixedly gleamed down upon the constant midnight of the gloomy crew. It
domineered above them so, that all their bodings, doubts, misgivings,
fears, were fain to hide beneath their souls, and not sprout forth a
single spear or leaf.
In this foreshadowing interval too, all humor, forced or natural,
vanished. Stubb no more strove to raise a smile; Starbuck no more strove
to check one. Alike, joy and sorrow, hope and fear, seemed ground to
finest dust, and powdered, for the time, in the clamped mortar of
Ahab's iron soul. Like machines, they dumbly moved about the deck, ever
conscious that the old man's despot eye was on them.
But did you deeply scan him in his more secret confidential hours; when
he thought no glance but one was on him; then you would have seen that
even as Ahab's eyes so awed the crew's, the inscrutable Parsee's glance
awed his; or somehow, at least, in some wild way, at times affected it.
Such an added, gliding strangeness began to invest the thin Fedallah
now; such ceaseless shudderings shook him; that the men looked dubious
at him; half uncertain, as it seemed, whether indeed he were a mortal
substance, or else a tremulous shadow cast upon the deck by some unseen
being's body. And that shadow was always hovering there. For not by
night, even, had Fedallah ever certainly been known to slumber, or go
below. He would stand still for hours: but never sat or leaned; his wan
but wondrous eyes did plainly say--We two watchmen never rest.
Nor, at any time, by night or day could the mariners now step upon the
deck, unless Ahab was before them; either standing in his pivot-hole, or
exactly pacing the planks between two undeviating limits,--the main-mast
and the mizen; or else they saw him standing in the cabin-scuttle,--his
living foot advanced upon the deck, as if to step; his hat slouched
heavily over his eyes; so that however motionless he stood, however the
days and nights were added on, that he had not swung in his hammock;
yet hidden beneath that slouching hat, they could never tell unerringly
whether, for all this, his eyes were really closed at times; or whether
he was still intently scanning them; no matter, though he stood so in
the scuttle for a whole hour on the stretch, and the unheeded night-damp
gathered in beads of dew upon that stone-carved coat and hat. The
clothes that the night had wet, the next day's sunshine dried upon him;
and so, day after day, and night after night; he went no more beneath
the planks; whatever he wanted from the cabin that thing he sent for.
He ate in the same open air; that is, his two only meals,--breakfast and
dinner: supper he never touched; nor reaped his beard; which darkly grew
all gnarled, as unearthed roots of trees blown over, which still grow
idly on at naked base, though perished in the upper verdure. But though
his whole life was now become one watch on deck; and though the Parsee's
mystic watch was without intermission as his own; yet these two never
seemed to speak--one man to the other--unless at long intervals some
passing unmomentous matter made it necessary. Though such a potent spell
seemed secretly to join the twain; openly, and to the awe-struck crew,
they seemed pole-like asunder. If by day they chanced to speak one word;
by night, dumb men were both, so far as concerned the slightest verbal
interchange. At times, for longest hours, without a single hail, they
stood far parted in the starlight; Ahab in his scuttle, the Parsee by
the mainmast; but still fixedly gazing upon each other; as if in the
Parsee Ahab saw his forethrown shadow, in Ahab the Parsee his abandoned
And yet, somehow, did Ahab--in his own proper self, as daily, hourly,
and every instant, commandingly revealed to his subordinates,--Ahab
seemed an independent lord; the Parsee but his slave. Still again both
seemed yoked together, and an unseen tyrant driving them; the lean shade
siding the solid rib. For be this Parsee what he may, all rib and keel
was solid Ahab.
At the first faintest glimmering of the dawn, his iron voice was heard
from aft,--"Man the mast-heads!"--and all through the day, till after
sunset and after twilight, the same voice every hour, at the striking of
the helmsman's bell, was heard--"What d'ye see?--sharp! sharp!"
But when three or four days had slided by, after meeting the
children-seeking Rachel; and no spout had yet been seen; the monomaniac
old man seemed distrustful of his crew's fidelity; at least, of nearly
all except the Pagan harpooneers; he seemed to doubt, even, whether
Stubb and Flask might not willingly overlook the sight he sought. But if
these suspicions were really his, he sagaciously refrained from verbally
expressing them, however his actions might seem to hint them.
"I will have the first sight of the whale myself,"--he said. "Aye!
Ahab must have the doubloon! and with his own hands he rigged a nest
of basketed bowlines; and sending a hand aloft, with a single sheaved
block, to secure to the main-mast head, he received the two ends of the
downward-reeved rope; and attaching one to his basket prepared a pin for
the other end, in order to fasten it at the rail. This done, with that
end yet in his hand and standing beside the pin, he looked round upon
his crew, sweeping from one to the other; pausing his glance long upon
Daggoo, Queequeg, Tashtego; but shunning Fedallah; and then settling his
firm relying eye upon the chief mate, said,--"Take the rope, sir--I give
it into thy hands, Starbuck." Then arranging his person in the basket,
he gave the word for them to hoist him to his perch, Starbuck being
the one who secured the rope at last; and afterwards stood near it. And
thus, with one hand clinging round the royal mast, Ahab gazed abroad
upon the sea for miles and miles,--ahead, astern, this side, and
that,--within the wide expanded circle commanded at so great a height.
When in working with his hands at some lofty almost isolated place in
the rigging, which chances to afford no foothold, the sailor at sea is
hoisted up to that spot, and sustained there by the rope; under these
circumstances, its fastened end on deck is always given in strict charge
to some one man who has the special watch of it. Because in such a
wilderness of running rigging, whose various different relations aloft
cannot always be infallibly discerned by what is seen of them at the
deck; and when the deck-ends of these ropes are being every few minutes
cast down from the fastenings, it would be but a natural fatality, if,
unprovided with a constant watchman, the hoisted sailor should by some
carelessness of the crew be cast adrift and fall all swooping to the
sea. So Ahab's proceedings in this matter were not unusual; the only
strange thing about them seemed to be, that Starbuck, almost the one
only man who had ever ventured to oppose him with anything in the
slightest degree approaching to decision--one of those too, whose
faithfulness on the look-out he had seemed to doubt somewhat;--it was
strange, that this was the very man he should select for his watchman;
freely giving his whole life into such an otherwise distrusted person's
Now, the first time Ahab was perched aloft; ere he had been there ten
minutes; one of those red-billed savage sea-hawks which so often fly
incommodiously close round the manned mast-heads of whalemen in these
latitudes; one of these birds came wheeling and screaming round his head
in a maze of untrackably swift circlings. Then it darted a thousand feet
straight up into the air; then spiralized downwards, and went eddying
again round his head.
But with his gaze fixed upon the dim and distant horizon, Ahab seemed
not to mark this wild bird; nor, indeed, would any one else have marked
it much, it being no uncommon circumstance; only now almost the least
heedful eye seemed to see some sort of cunning meaning in almost every
"Your hat, your hat, sir!" suddenly cried the Sicilian seaman, who
being posted at the mizen-mast-head, stood directly behind Ahab, though
somewhat lower than his level, and with a deep gulf of air dividing
But already the sable wing was before the old man's eyes; the long
hooked bill at his head: with a scream, the black hawk darted away with
An eagle flew thrice round Tarquin's head, removing his cap to replace
it, and thereupon Tanaquil, his wife, declared that Tarquin would
be king of Rome. But only by the replacing of the cap was that omen
accounted good. Ahab's hat was never restored; the wild hawk flew on and
on with it; far in advance of the prow: and at last disappeared; while
from the point of that disappearance, a minute black spot was dimly
discerned, falling from that vast height into the sea.
CHAPTER 131. The Pequod Meets The Delight.
The intense Pequod sailed on; the rolling waves and days went by; the
life-buoy-coffin still lightly swung; and another ship, most miserably
misnamed the Delight, was descried. As she drew nigh, all eyes were
fixed upon her broad beams, called shears, which, in some whaling-ships,
cross the quarter-deck at the height of eight or nine feet; serving to
carry the spare, unrigged, or disabled boats.
Upon the stranger's shears were beheld the shattered, white ribs, and
some few splintered planks, of what had once been a whale-boat; but you
now saw through this wreck, as plainly as you see through the peeled,
half-unhinged, and bleaching skeleton of a horse.
"Hast seen the White Whale?"
"Look!" replied the hollow-cheeked captain from his taffrail; and with
his trumpet he pointed to the wreck.
"Hast killed him?"
"The harpoon is not yet forged that ever will do that," answered the
other, sadly glancing upon a rounded hammock on the deck, whose gathered
sides some noiseless sailors were busy in sewing together.
"Not forged!" and snatching Perth's levelled iron from the crotch, Ahab
held it out, exclaiming--"Look ye, Nantucketer; here in this hand I hold
his death! Tempered in blood, and tempered by lightning are these barbs;
and I swear to temper them triply in that hot place behind the fin,
where the White Whale most feels his accursed life!"
"Then God keep thee, old man--see'st thou that"--pointing to the
hammock--"I bury but one of five stout men, who were alive only
yesterday; but were dead ere night. Only THAT one I bury; the rest were
buried before they died; you sail upon their tomb." Then turning to his
crew--"Are ye ready there? place the plank then on the rail, and
lift the body; so, then--Oh! God"--advancing towards the hammock with
uplifted hands--"may the resurrection and the life--"
"Brace forward! Up helm!" cried Ahab like lightning to his men.
But the suddenly started Pequod was not quick enough to escape the sound
of the splash that the corpse soon made as it struck the sea; not so
quick, indeed, but that some of the flying bubbles might have sprinkled
her hull with their ghostly baptism.
As Ahab now glided from the dejected Delight, the strange life-buoy
hanging at the Pequod's stern came into conspicuous relief.
"Ha! yonder! look yonder, men!" cried a foreboding voice in her wake.
"In vain, oh, ye strangers, ye fly our sad burial; ye but turn us your
taffrail to show us your coffin!"
CHAPTER 132. The Symphony.
It was a clear steel-blue day. The firmaments of air and sea were
hardly separable in that all-pervading azure; only, the pensive air was
transparently pure and soft, with a woman's look, and the robust and
man-like sea heaved with long, strong, lingering swells, as Samson's
chest in his sleep.
Hither, and thither, on high, glided the snow-white wings of small,
unspeckled birds; these were the gentle thoughts of the feminine air;
but to and fro in the deeps, far down in the bottomless blue, rushed
mighty leviathans, sword-fish, and sharks; and these were the strong,
troubled, murderous thinkings of the masculine sea.
But though thus contrasting within, the contrast was only in shades and
shadows without; those two seemed one; it was only the sex, as it were,
that distinguished them.
Aloft, like a royal czar and king, the sun seemed giving this gentle
air to this bold and rolling sea; even as bride to groom. And at the
girdling line of the horizon, a soft and tremulous motion--most seen
here at the Equator--denoted the fond, throbbing trust, the loving
alarms, with which the poor bride gave her bosom away.
Tied up and twisted; gnarled and knotted with wrinkles; haggardly firm
and unyielding; his eyes glowing like coals, that still glow in the
ashes of ruin; untottering Ahab stood forth in the clearness of the
morn; lifting his splintered helmet of a brow to the fair girl's
forehead of heaven.
Oh, immortal infancy, and innocency of the azure! Invisible winged
creatures that frolic all round us! Sweet childhood of air and sky! how
oblivious were ye of old Ahab's close-coiled woe! But so have I seen
little Miriam and Martha, laughing-eyed elves, heedlessly gambol around
their old sire; sporting with the circle of singed locks which grew on
the marge of that burnt-out crater of his brain.
Slowly crossing the deck from the scuttle, Ahab leaned over the side and
watched how his shadow in the water sank and sank to his gaze, the more
and the more that he strove to pierce the profundity. But the lovely
aromas in that enchanted air did at last seem to dispel, for a moment,
the cankerous thing in his soul. That glad, happy air, that winsome
sky, did at last stroke and caress him; the step-mother world, so long
cruel--forbidding--now threw affectionate arms round his stubborn neck,
and did seem to joyously sob over him, as if over one, that however
wilful and erring, she could yet find it in her heart to save and to
bless. From beneath his slouched hat Ahab dropped a tear into the sea;
nor did all the Pacific contain such wealth as that one wee drop.
Starbuck saw the old man; saw him, how he heavily leaned over the side;
and he seemed to hear in his own true heart the measureless sobbing that
stole out of the centre of the serenity around. Careful not to touch
him, or be noticed by him, he yet drew near to him, and stood there.
"Oh, Starbuck! it is a mild, mild wind, and a mild looking sky. On such
a day--very much such a sweetness as this--I struck my first whale--a
boy-harpooneer of eighteen! Forty--forty--forty years ago!--ago! Forty
years of continual whaling! forty years of privation, and peril, and
storm-time! forty years on the pitiless sea! for forty years has Ahab
forsaken the peaceful land, for forty years to make war on the horrors
of the deep! Aye and yes, Starbuck, out of those forty years I have not
spent three ashore. When I think of this life I have led; the desolation
of solitude it has been; the masoned, walled-town of a Captain's
exclusiveness, which admits but small entrance to any sympathy from the
green country without--oh, weariness! heaviness! Guinea-coast slavery of
solitary command!--when I think of all this; only half-suspected, not so
keenly known to me before--and how for forty years I have fed upon dry
salted fare--fit emblem of the dry nourishment of my soil!--when the
poorest landsman has had fresh fruit to his daily hand, and broken the
world's fresh bread to my mouldy crusts--away, whole oceans away, from
that young girl-wife I wedded past fifty, and sailed for Cape Horn
the next day, leaving but one dent in my marriage pillow--wife?
wife?--rather a widow with her husband alive! Aye, I widowed that poor
girl when I married her, Starbuck; and then, the madness, the frenzy,
the boiling blood and the smoking brow, with which, for a thousand
lowerings old Ahab has furiously, foamingly chased his prey--more a
demon than a man!--aye, aye! what a forty years' fool--fool--old fool,
has old Ahab been! Why this strife of the chase? why weary, and palsy
the arm at the oar, and the iron, and the lance? how the richer or
better is Ahab now? Behold. Oh, Starbuck! is it not hard, that with this
weary load I bear, one poor leg should have been snatched from under
me? Here, brush this old hair aside; it blinds me, that I seem to weep.
Locks so grey did never grow but from out some ashes! But do I look
very old, so very, very old, Starbuck? I feel deadly faint, bowed, and
humped, as though I were Adam, staggering beneath the piled
centuries since Paradise. God! God! God!--crack my heart!--stave my
brain!--mockery! mockery! bitter, biting mockery of grey hairs, have